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Matthew Phifer, Vice President, Education & Employment Services
Matthew Phifer’s passion for social services began in 1999 at Binghamton University. As an undergraduate, he was a teaching assistant for numerous Sociology and Africana Studies courses, which galvanized his passion for addressing the systemic ‘isms’ that persist to this day. While enrolled in college, he worked as a part-time Family Life Specialist for the Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference, where he saw the connections between his studies and the harsh realities of poverty, marginalization, and lack of resources. As a first generation Educational Opportunity Program college student himself, Matthew’s own experiences helped reinforce the importance of educational equity, critical thought, culturally responsive pedagogy, and social emotional learning, particularly within young inner city communities of color. Upon graduation he joined the Henry Street Settlement as a Case Manager for the New Beginnings Alternative High School at the Boys and Girls Republic. He was responsible for counseling youth with severe attendance issues and one-year suspensions, as well as providing referrals and managing academic interventions with students. During his tenure at Henry Street, Matt worked as the coordinator for the Summer Youth Employment Program, Director of Adolescent Education Services, and eventually Director of Education Services where he oversaw Henry Street’s adolescent, early childhood and after-school elementary educational services, which provide results-driven academic enrichment programming to more than 2000 youth annually. In his previous role as CollegeSpring’s New York Executive Director, he oversaw partnership development, fundraising, site management, and program execution. Matthew holds two BAs in Africana Studies and Sociology, as well as a Masters in Social Science with a concentration in Public Administration.


Olivia Nuñez, Senior Director of Education & Youth Services, joined Henry Street Settlement in September 2023. She oversees Henry Street’s Early Childhood Education, After School & Camp Services, High School & College Success, and Youth Opportunity Hub.  A long-time advocate for strengthening communities by ensuring access to educational resources, she has worked at some of Henry Street’s partner organizations, which drew her to seek opportunities to work at the Settlement. Olivia served as senior director for community engagement at the GO Project and chief program officer at Breakthrough New York, where she developed programs for students from marginalized communities who strove to graduate from college and begin pursuing their careers.  


Aaron Cummings, Director of Afterschool & Camp Services, joined Henry Street in 2015, with ten years of experience in youth development and the nonprofit sector. His responsibilities include overseeing all after-school and camp programs, and maintaining cohesive partnerships with program stakeholders to ensure that youth and family needs are met. Aaron is a graduate of Adelphi University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in exercise science, and his master’s degree in sports management. Before joining Henry Street, he served as a COMPASS Program Manager for the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD).


Leonor Colon, Assistant Director of Afterschool & Camp Services, is a native of the Lower East Side and has been with the agency since 1998. She currently oversees all Boys & Girls Republic and Jacob Riis Cornerstone programming. Leonor received her Bachelor’s degree in education from City College.


Elisa Kaplan, Director of Community Social Work, joined Henry Street in 2019 because she believes in the Hub’s inspiring, holistic, creative model of youth empowerment. She believes absolutely in Henry Street’s social justice vision of a world where all young people have the tools and resources they need to successfully transition to adulthood. Elisa has over 15 years of experience working with young people, and has devoted her Social Work career to building strong programs that both meet the needs and amplify the voices of people most directly impacted by social injustices. Elisa is a LMSW who earned her Master’s in Social Work from Hunter College and her BA in Sociology is from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Elisa is also a Doula.


Breahna Watkins-Cole, Director of the Early Childhood Education Center, joined Henry Street in 2023 because she believes in the Early Childhood Education mission that a child’s early years are the foundation for their future development, and provides a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development.  She wants to continue the work of emphasizing the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block to a child’s future success.

Breahna has nearly 20 years of experience teaching, training, and leading in early childhood education. She is active on numerous councils and associations including the National Association of the Education of Young Children, the National Black Child Development Institute, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Breahna holds an associate degree in early childhood education from Bronx Community College. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s in special education and early childhood studies, both from Metropolitan College of New York. She is currently pursuing her PhD in curriculum and instruction studies.



Tiffany Rodriguez, Assistant Director of Afterschool & Camp Services, joined Henry Street in 2013 as a Summer Camp Counselor. Since then, she has grown within the agency from Program Assistant to Program Director operating elementary after-school and camp programs for seven years. Tiffany currently oversees six school-based elementary and middle school programs with various funding sources, and provides direct supervision and support to the directors of these programs. Tiffany is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University, where she completed her Bachelor’s in Biology, and her Master’s in Human Services Leadership



Verona Robinson, Assistant Director of Afterschool & Camp Operations, joined Henry Street in 2018, and has worked in youth/education field since 2009. She currently oversees all operational tasks relating to all programming sites. Verona received her Bachelors in business professional studies from Medgar Evers and completed her master’s in health administration from SNHU. 



Jess Cummings, Community School Director at P.S. 142 Amalia Castro, joined Henry Street in 2023 and has worked in youth development since 2017. Prior to working in youth development and Community Schools, Jess worked in theater and constantly strives to empower students and families through art and storytelling. Jess received her BA in Theater from Wesleyan University.


Luis Checa, Assistant Director of Athletics, joined Henry Street Settlement at the Boys & Girls Republic (BGR) in 2005 as the Self-Government Specialist. Luis attended BGR as a youth and many other Henry Street Settlement youth programs. Over the years Luis has held various positions in Education. Luis currently oversees all after school, evening and weekend athletics programming at both our gym sites at 301 Henry Street & BGR. Luis received his Bachelors in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


Marilyn Rivera, Administrative Director, joined Henry Street Settlement in 2005. Since joining the Agency, Marilyn has grown from being an administrative assistant to her current role of Administrative Director. Marilyn currently oversees and provides support for all the administrative assistants in the education department.  Marilyn is also the building ambassador at the 301 building. Marilyn received her Associates degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Berkley College.



Elise Boykin, Community School Director at University Neighborhood Middle School (UNMS), joined Henry Street Settlement in 2016. As a native New Yorker with a love for the NYC High School Application process, Henry Street’s Middle School Success Center was the perfect fit. Currently as Community School Director, she oversees the 21st Century Community School program. Elise received her Bachelor’s in Political Science from Drew University and her Master’s in School Counseling and Guidance from NYU Steinhardt.



Joelle Diaz, Community School Director at Orchard Collegiate Academy, first joined Henry Street in 2018 as a social work intern. Joelle knew she wanted to be a social worker when she worked her first job at her college’s personal counseling department. When she interned with Henry Street Settlement and worked with high school youth, she knew they were the perfect fit. Joelle  currently oversees the community school partnership between Henry Street Settlement and Orchard Collegiate Academy as the Community School Director. On her off days, Joelle enjoys spending time exploring outdoors, going to concerts and trying out new restaurants. Joelle graduated with her Master’s degree in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work in 2019.



Josephine Fernandez, Community School Director at P.S.188 (The Island School), first joined the Henry Street team in 2021. Born and raised in Lower East Side Manhattan, and having been a Henry Street kid herself, Josephine is passionate about serving the community that did so much for her.  Throughout her youth, Josephine participated in Henry Street’s afterschool program, Expanded Horizon, and worked as a group aid. Josephine attended Fordham University, where she double majored in Psychology and Social work and went on to receive her Masters degree from Columbia School of Social Work.



Meriem Mahdi, Clinical Manager at the Youth Opportunity Hub, joined Henry Street in 2023 with over 10 year of social work experience working with youth and families. Meriem believes in the vision of Henry Street’s commitment to community social work and meeting people where they are at. Meriem oversees the Youth Opportunity Hub which provides services for youth ages 10-24 in the areas of mental health services, education support and community building. Meriem is an LCSW and received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Simmons College in Boston with a BA in Sociology from Bridgewater State College.



Tachrina (Thas-reena) Ahmed, Director of College Access and Success at Expanded Horizons, has been at Henry Street Settlement since 2019. Tachrina is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, where they attained their Masters of Education degree in Education Sociology and Policy. They believe in making higher education accessible to all, especially our more vulnerable youth. They have incorporated social-emotional learning, anti-oppressive counseling, and social justice based curricula in all Expanded Horizons programming to build up our students to be advocates for themselves, their communities, and their education.





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